After I came home from the newsroom last Saturday, I sat on my couch to do some lazy channel-surfing.
A few minutes of mindless commercials later, I found one of my favorite action-comedies, “Rush Hour.” Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan were comedic gold in three movies – AND YOU KNOW THIS, MAN!
However, after the commercials, a disclaimer was shown saying something to effect of “we love our 90s buddy comedies, but some of the references may seem outdated and might be offensive to some viewers.”
First off, I completely forgot, the original “Rush Hour” was released in 1998, and the last was released in 2007. A lot has changed since then, I can agree.
Nevertheless, I never thought this series of movies would have come with the same “viewer discretion is advised” tags the documentaries on Investigation Discovery would have. Come to think of it, my own life would come with this tag due to adult content, adult situations, graphic language, mild violence…this is a family column, so you get the point.
While I was watching the movies, I started thinking, how many more classic comedies would be under this microscope in 2020? The first movie that came to mind was 1980’s “Airplane!”
Now this is easily considered one of the greatest comedies of all-time, and it’s loaded with more than a few recitable lines. I know you’re saying, “surely you can’t be serious,” to which I would reply “I am serious – and don’t call me Shirley!”
But some people would also say this movie has more than a few offensive references to minorities, such as the over-the-top effeminate air traffic controller, played by the late Stephen Stucker, which could be seen as offensive to the LGBT community.
African-Americans of today might be offended by the two characters speaking in “jive,” with “proper English” subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Now I personally think that was freaking hilarious, especially when the “golly” is used to replace an expletive, and it was even funnier when Barbara Billingsley from “Leave It To Beaver” is a white passenger who speaks the language.
Let’s go back a second. I’m an African-American who was born in 1975. This movie was made in 1980. Just take that into consideration, and laugh, jive turkeys!
No one pushed the envelope more than Mel Brooks. Excuse me while I whip this out!
Who would do a comedic parody about an African-American sheriff in a white town in the Old West in the 1970s full of racist epithets that could make everyone spit out their drinks at every joke?
Who would do a satirical comedy about a theatre producer and his accountant who stage the worst stage production they could possibly propagate? For Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, it was “the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart.”
Only Mel Brooks, who is Jewish and fought the Nazis in World War II defusing land mines, would make movies like this – and they would probably come with disclaimers today.
It’s even difficult to find many Disney classics. I remembered seeing “Song of the South” as a child, not realizing at the time how blatantly racist it was. This movie is considered one of the most offensive of all-time, next to “Birth of A Nation,” that is, and has not been released to the public in decades.
Could you remake movies like these today? Probably not in today’s charged environment.
It’s difficult to find these movies like the ones I listed on television without a disclaimer, if they’re on the tube at all. I’m not one of these curmudgeons who will say, “why are people getting offended by everything.”
Nevertheless, while there are things we should be offended by, is it possible to make offensive things funny? Or should we always be so serious about everything?
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “as soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.” Maybe we should take a step back, take a deep breath, and allow the most odious of things through once in a while.
Then we actually laugh at the inanity – and insanity – for it really is.